Last Update: July 2015
My kitchen can certainly do without ‘brown paper packages tied up with strings’ or ‘wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings’ and I’m sure ‘girls in white dresses’ would find turmeric stains a nightmare to handle (I can hear fellow fans of The Sound of Music humming to its tunes.)
As a rule, my frugal Indian ways keep me from buying specialized kitchen equipment that gets used once a year. However, many handy and often inexpensive kitchen tools and gadgets make cooking a breeze; especially when it comes to Indian cooking.
Each of these kitchen tools and gadgets below make my life in the kitchen a cinch…and could have the same effect on yours:
The Krups grinder I’ve been using for years as a spice grinder, used to be sold as a coffee grinder in the days gone by, but is now appropriately labeled as a spice and coffee grinder. I’d suggest setting one aside solely for grinding spices, unless you like your coffee spicy.
A spice grinder is great for creating ground spice blends for recipes like Parsi Dhansak and Garam Masala. It also lands up being useful for making small batches of homemade lentil flour-Besan for Kadhi soups and lentil cakes, or rice flour for Parsi fish curry Saas ni Macchi.
I’m afraid to mention this lest I jinx it; my precious red Rival slow cooker was an impulse buy at Target a decade back, one I thought would break down in a month. Countless curries, beans and Daals-lentils later, this inexpensive work horse of my kitchen still holds strong and gets used at least once a week, always rendering a steaming hot slow cooked meal, at the end of a busy day.
From finely minced chutneys like mom’s famous coconut mint one, to various Indian bread dough like Naan and Paratha, to my friends’ recipes for foolproof pizza dough and homemade pie crusts, and Ozlem’s simple hummus dip; the Cuisinart food processor is one kitchen essential that takes hours off my prep time.
Masala Dabba (Indian Version of a Daily Use Spice Rack):
An airtight Masala Dabba or spice box is extremely handy for keeping your top 5-7 daily use spices or herbs within easy access, smaller quantities make sure the spices don’t lose their potency when exposed to air. In the Indian culture, a spice box is gifted by a mother to her daughter when she moves out of the parent’s home. Read more on spices in 10 Things to Know about Indian Spices and The Whole Truth on Whole Spices.
Lassi and smoothies, curries and soups, and Daals like Parsi Dhansak; a stick blender will make light work of it all. Unfortunately, I’m on my third stick blender in 8 years and have finally decided to change from this Cuisinart one to a new brand (not yet decided on.)
Invest in a dependable set of stainless steel measuring cups and spoons. They’re worth their weight in gold (or let’s say, stainless steel) if you like trying out recipes, since most cookbooks and recipe sites, including mine, provide ingredient measurements in cups/tablespoons/teaspoons, which can be easily converted into metric or customary units.
I bake as often as possible, sometimes changing traditionally fried Indian recipes into baked favorites like here and here and here and I bake this Indian deep fried classic too. After 3 unsuccessful toaster ovens, which failed to keep their baking promises, I invested in the compact Breville countertop model. Three happy baking years later, it’s hands-down one of the most efficient equipments in my kitchen, handling all my small baking/toasting/broiling chores like cookies, lentil cakes, flatbreads, roast potatoes and Naan.
Update In July 2015: Sadly, this equipment stopped working after 3 and half years of daily use. I looked for another replacement and found none that could match the effectiveness of the compact Breville. So, I got another one of the same brand. Fingers crossed, this one lasts longer…
An Indian home or just about any home that bakes must have a sturdy and useful rolling pin. While you could dole out big bucks for marble or stainless steel rolling pins which help keep the dough cold, my personal preference is a heavy inexpensive wooden variety. Always hand-wash rolling pins for years of use.
A good quality, large well-sharpened chef’s knife and smaller paring knife are a cook’s main tools and a priceless asset in the kitchen. I use Henckels ones, but there are many great brands available.
Three Knife Tips to Keep in Mind: It’s always best to wash and dry a knife right away, after use. Keep knives sharpened, a blunt knife is way more dangerous than a sharp one. Store knives on their side and not on the blade, preferably in a wooden knife rack.
Cast Iron Griddle (Tawa):
The rather inexpensive Lodge cast iron tawa (sold as a griddle) is always on display atop my stove. Buy a pre-seasoned one; no washing required, the only maintenance is occasionally rubbing oil on the griddle. Limitless uses of the humble Tawa or griddle include making pancakes, grilled sandwiches, quesadillas and all kinds of Indian flatbreads like Chapati and Dosa.
Tea drinkers, please invest in this kettle. If you’re anything like me, this kettle will be used at least twice a day. Since the last 3 years, this Breville has been a sensible replacement for my earlier trusty Braun kettle.
My Two-bits of Advice on Shopping for Kitchen Tools: Prices can really vary on kitchen equipment, always research the market for the best current deal before buying. I get most of my kitchen tools and gadgets from Amazon (this post links you to the relevant product pages, read more on that here.) Five years ago, we became Amazon Prime members (thanks to a drum set we bought for our son!) which gives you 2-days free shipping on tons of products and free returns, both very critical when buying online.
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